Saturday, May 21, 2011

EVANGELISTIC ESCAPADES: The Watchtower Strikes Back

I don’t mean to keep playing the same one-string fiddle…but I had yet another encounter with Jehovah’s Witnesses last week. The Lord just keeps bringing them to me.

It was Monday, one day before Joe would have to return to the States, and he wanted to go for one last open air excursion in Centro. So we took the subway and headed to our usual fishing spot in Plaza Tapatía. As I was ready to get up on my box—microphone and Bible in hand—two girls in their twenties, and a young man who wasn’t at all dressed like a Watchtowerite, approached us. One of the young ladies asked me if I knew any deaf and mute people around the area, because they were looking to give assistance to any they could find, and share with them about “Jehovah’s Kingdom”. “Even if I did know any,” I thought to myself, “you would just about be the last person I would refer one to for spiritual advice.” I told her that I could not help her, but offered both of them a Gospel tract. The girl who had asked me accepted it, but the other refused. I asked the other why she didn’t want the tract—after all it was based on the Word of God. She said she already knew the Word of God and the JWs believed and taught what the Bible teaches. I told them I disagreed with that assertion, and added that we could spend the whole afternoon debating the subjects on which we disagreed—but the most important one, which I would like to discuss with them, concerned salvation. How is one saved? So I let that be the topic of debate. Though my mouth got really dry again and I had to be sipping water during our conversation, the atmosphere was not one of contention at all; it was actually very calm, and the girls even ended up listening to what I had to say. The Lord poured out His grace, wisdom and compassion on me during the entire conversation.

They basically explained to me that we are saved by our works, pointing to Matthew 24:13 as proof positive that we must persevere in good works in order to eventually be saved in the end. I shared with them Ephesians 2:8-9 about salvation by grace through faith, and asked them to please explain the passage to me, in the light of Watchtower doctrine. They could not, and began to instead point me to other passages that seemed to them to imply salvation by works. Not wanting them to use that opportunity to change the subject, I stayed on point and began teaching them how one is saved according to the Bible (particularly, the book of Romans). They surprisingly listened to me; they didn’t seem to have much knowledge of the Word and I had to correct them several times when they misquoted passages and biblical references, and took verses out of context. I then asked them if they had ever read the whole book of Romans, and if so, would they kindly give me a summary of what it was about. One of them said she read the Bible once, but could not tell me the general theme behind the epistle. However, both of them quietly allowed me to explain it to them. I shared that there is a common thread in the entire Bible—namely, salvation by faith apart from any works…faith in Jesus’ sacrifice entirely and once and for all purchased for us on the cross. I explained that Paul’s epistle to the Romans could be summed up in one word: justification. I then went on to explain this glorious doctrine to them, and even shared my testimony of how the Lord had saved me. I told them that now I do good works not to be saved, but because I am already saved and want to follow Christ. While I was explaining the nature of salvation and the new birth to them and how we can come to really know Christ in a personal, saving relationship, one of the girls objected by telling me that “John 3:16 says that ‘This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you, the only true God…’” I immediately corrected her, “I think you mean John 17:3,” and showed them the difference between this verse in my version of the Bible and in theirs. I read out loud that passage from my Bible: “this is eternal life, that they may know You the only true God…” I explained that there is a world of difference between “taking in knowledge” of someone and actually knowing them: “If I’m your doctor, I can know all about your body’s anatomy and how your ears, eyes, mouth, etc. work…but that doesn’t mean that I actually know you.” To know someone is to have a personal relationship with them, I argued, explaining that one can “take in knowledge” of God and His Word all they want, but that doesn’t mean they actually know Christ in a saving way. After all, reasoned I, the devil has vast knowledge of the Scriptures, and yet we know that he will never experience salvation. They actually agreed with me, and one of the girls, contemplating my words, commended me for giving them a very good illustration. The Lord gave me more Scriptures to quote to them about assurance of salvation and the guarantee of eternal life right now to those who trust in Christ. What I said seemed to make them both think.

I pleaded with them to read the Bible for themselves to see if what I was saying was true. They insisted that they had, and that the Watchtower organization encouraged them to do so. I disagreed, and pulling out my little tract, quoted to them from their own literature the warnings and admonishments to JWs not to read the Bible for themselves, and to avoid independent thinking. As I cited the exact sources of the quotes and their dates, one of the girls asked me to repeat them and hurriedly wrote them down on a piece of paper, saying she would look them up. I told them that if anything was wrong in the tract they could come back another day and let me know. They seemed genuinely interested in verifying if those quotes were true, so I offered the girl that had initially rejected the Gospel tract my JW tract, if she wanted it. I did so hesitantly, knowing that they are discouraged from taking “apostate literature” (reading any literature that critiques the Watchtower organization is equated to looking at pornography). But she actually took it! She said she would research the quotes, and the other girl said she would read the book of Romans by herself. I encouraged her to do so all by herself without the filters of the Watchtower explaining to her what the Bible is supposedly saying. They had to leave so we ended the conversation with a friendly farewell. The Lord gave me the grace not to be contentious that day, praise the Lord. Please keep the two young ladies and the young man in prayer.

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